« PreviousContinue »
and Arizona. The Klamath Indians
themselves and the governTrachington Territory, to "I also be imme
Hount lanent necome
ich have - annuities ral, encour
liereas they umes and in . But a small Ulized for any
harity of Conagricultural purTowever honestly .0 accomplish the 11fficient aid to en
subsist them until Il entirely from their r's enable them to beJcation of the merely la comparatively brief ue Chippewas of White
ebraska, not only to protil large surplus for sale, and
Ty has surplus beef for sale. ET 110 longer desire to follow the
so civilization, and have, consewith the government for support; they
ar to be taught, and ready to adopt Sed advantages of civilization. ments which can be presented in confact that the expenses attending the
Indians as herein proposed will be lands vacated. Under the provisions the late session 17,642,000 acres of land elands be opened to settlement under the
ws, but a very small revenue, if any, would was they would be largely absorbed under will presented contemplates the appraisement ated, except in the case of four of the tribes, 1 to be paid, and the money arising therefrom,
effecting the removal, building houses, purchaswards, and teaching them the rudiments of agri
u be funded, the interest to be used as long as ng the objects named above.
TOW owned by these Indians is valuable only for its se sold at an appraised value for an amount far in ex.
sed by law, and yet leave a large margin of profit to to whose hands the lands will fall. The same condi. the arable lands now embraced in the reservations to
The new system of buying and selling for cash only, and of requiring traders to post price-lists of their goods in convenient places, and of having but one price, which must be the same for Indians and whites, works well.
Two new inspectors and two special agents have been appointed, and the inspections of Indian agencies have been careful and complete. Good results must continue to follow the more active and thorough su pervision which is being carried out.
The issuing of sugar, coffee, and tobacco, except in return for labor, has been forbidden in most cases.
The adoption of a new form of beef-contract not only secures a better quality of beef cattle for the Indians, but it provides for an equivalent deduction from contract-prices for any inferior cattle which an agent may be compelled to receive rather than permit his Indians to starve.
The system of permitting agents in all cases to choose agency employés from among their relatives and friends having proved disastrous to agents and disadvantageous to the service, has been changed.
During the last session of Congress, at the verbal request of the House Committee on Indian Affairs, a bill was drawn in this office and sent to the committee, providing for the removal and consolidation of certain Indians in the States of Oregon, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and the Territories of Washington and Dakota.
The objects sought to be attained by the bill were as follows:
First. The reduction of the number of agencies, and consequently a large annual reduction of the expense attending the civilization of the Indians and the management of their affairs.
Second. The consolidation of the Indians upon reservations where they might be best protected in their personal and property rights.
Third. The sale of the lands vacated by the consolidation, and the use of a portion of the funds arising therefrom in the removal and settlement of the Indians, now residing on the reservations to be vacated, on the reservations where the consolidation is to be effected, the balance of the money to be funded for their use, the interest thereon to be expended in lieu of direct appropriations for the benefit of all the Indians on the reservation as created by the bill.
Without attempting to particularize, it may be said that the various tribes and bands of Indians embraced in the bill now occupy thirty-six reservations, containing 21,922,507 acres of land, under charge of twenty agents and the necessary attendant corps of teachers and other employés. Upon the reduction proposed in the bill they will occupy nine reservations, containing 4,239,052 acres, under the charge of nine agents, all of whom are now provided for by law. A reduction of twenty-five reservations and eleven agencies will thus be effected. There will be restored to the public domain 17,642,455 acres of land, and an annual saving in agency expenses to the amount of $120,000 will be effected, after making a liberal allowance for an increase of teachers, farmers, &c., at the several consolidated agencies.
Since the presentation of the bill to the committee a more particular investigation of the subject has convinced me that further consolidations of like character are not only possible, but expedient and advisable. There is a vast area of land in the Indian Territory not yet occupied. Into this should, and may, be gathered the major portion of the Indians of New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. The Klamath Indians of Oregon can, with material advantage to themselves and the government, be removed to Yakama Reservation, in Washington Territory, to which reservation the Bannocks and Malheur Indians will also be immediately sent. This policy should also be pursued with the Indians of Western Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and other sections; the paramount object being to locate them on good agricultural lands to which permanent title can be given, and to sustain and aid them thereon until they become self-supporting.
Among the most radical defects of the policy formerly pursued with the Indians has been the frequent changes in their location which have been made, and the fact that the method of distributing the annuities which they have received under various treaties has, in general, encouraged them in idleness and dependence on the government, whereas they should have been used in locating them in permanent homes and in educating them in agricultural and other civilized pursuits. But a small proportion of the lands now occupied by the Indians is utilized for any purpose. They are, in the main, dependent upon the charity of Congress for the little aid that is given to assist them in agricultural pursuits, and in many cases the meager amount given, however honestly expended, is wasted on account of its insufficiency to accomplish the desired ends. In my judgment, permanent homes, sufficient aid to enable them to build houses, cultivate the soil, and to subsist them until they have harvested their first crops, will wean them entirely from their old methods of life, and in the course of a few years enable them to become entirely self-supporting. A practical application of the merely common-sense methods named above have, within a comparatively brief period, enabled the Sisseton Sioux of Dakota, the Chippewas of White Earth, Minnesota, and the Santee Sioux of Nebraska, not only to produce sufficient grain for their own use, but a large surplus for sale, and the Yakama agency in Washington Territory has surplus beef for sale. A new era has dawned for them; they no longer desire to follow the chase; they have tasted the benefits of civilization, and have, consequently, ceased to lean entirely upon the government for support; they are willing and earnest laborers, eager to be taught, and ready to adopt the habits, customs, methods, and advantages of civilization.
Among the more forcible arguments which can be presented in connection with this subject is the fact that the expenses attending the removal and consolidation of the Indians as herein proposed will be more than met from the sale of lands vacated. Under the provisions of the bill as presented at the late session 17,642,000 acres of land will be vacated. Should these lands be opened to settlement under the pre-emption or homestead laws, but a very small revenue, if any, would be derived from their sale, as they would be largely absorbed under the last-named act. The bill presented contemplates the appraisement and sale of the lands vacated, except in the case of four of the tribes, to whom a sum in gross is to be paid, and the money arising therefrom, as before stated, used in effecting the removal, building houses, purchasing cattle, breaking lands, and teaching them the rudiments of agriculture; the balance to be funded, the interest to be used as long as necessary in furthering the objects named above.
Much of the land now owned by these Indians is valuable only for its timber, and may be sold at an appraised value for an amount far in ex. cess of the price fixed by law, and yet leave a large margin of profit to the purchaser into whose hands the lands will fall. The same condi. tions exist as to the arable lands now embraced in the reservations to
be vacated. Settlements have sprung up all around them, and the value of the lands has been largely appreciated thereby. I can see no reason why the government should not avail itself of these facts, and in effecting the consolidation of the Indians and the opening of the lands for settlement, sell the same for an amount sufficient to support the Indians in their new locations, without any actual drain on the Treasury in the future. The lands belong to the Indians, and they are clearly entitled to receive the full value of the same when sold. The government is desirous of reducing the cost of the Indian service to the lowest possible limit, consistent with the best interests of the Indians. This can be done by the sale of the lands, the funding of the surplus after the removal and settlement of the Indians, and the application of the accruing interest to the payment of the current expenses of the respective agencies, and that without affecting in the least degree the interests of citizens.
By following these views to a legitimate conclusion, the seventy-four agencies now existing by law can, with material benefit to the Indians, be reduced to a very limited number. An opportunity will thus be given the Indians to earn a sufficient support for themselves. Schools can be opened and maintained, and their attention will be drawn to new and interesting pursuits. The history of the few tribes to whom permanent homes have been given, with guaranteed title to the same, and a reasonable degree of aid and instruction, shows clearly, as before intimated, that as a race, when honorably and intelligently dealt with, Indians yield readily to the influences of a civilizing policy. The adoption by the department, under authority of law, of the policy of consolidation herein proposed, with a permanent title to the land, in which the Indians will be fully protected against the encroachments of the whites and the changes incident to new legislation, both of which have been prolific causes of Indian wars, will, in my judgment, in a comparatively short time, remove all cause for discontent on the part of the Indians and insure future pleasant relations with all the tribes.
With a view to pressing this important question before Congress at its next session, a new bill will be prepared by this office for presentation at an early day, giving wider scope and more permanent direction to the matter,
A PERMANENT LAND TITLE.
The question of greatest importance to the present and future welfare of the Indians is that of a uniform and perfect title to their lands. The constant removals incident to the former land policy of the Indian service have been freighted with evil consequences to the Indians. Even when placed upon reservations they have come to consider, notwithstanding the most solemn guarantees from the United States that the same should be kept sacred and remain theirs forever, that the title to their land is without permanency, and that they are subject to be removed whenever the pressure of white settlers upon them may create a demand for their lands either before Congress or the department. So fixed has this opinion become among the more civilized tribes, that in the main they decline to make any improvements upon their lands, even after an allot. ment in severalty has been made, until they have received their patents for the same.
But after the issue of patents, the difficulties surrounding them do not cease. A few, it is true, hold to their land and make rapid and encouraging progress in agricultural pursuits. The major portion of them, however, yielding to the pressure surrounding them, fall victims to the greed of unscrupulous white men, and, one by one, part with or are defrauded of their lands. Every means that human ingenuity can devise, legal or illegal, has been resorted to for the purpose of obtaining possession of Indian lands.
The question which now presents itself is, shall tenure of title to the land in the various reservations remain as now, or shall a new system be adopted, which shall protect them against all interference with their lands by whatever authority.
Before proceeding to consider the best means to be adopted for the pro. tection of the Indians in this regard, it is perhaps best to show the method heretofore pursued, with a brief statement of the results which have followed. The older and more common Indian title has been title by occupancy. This title has from time to time been extinguished by treaty stipulation. Of the lands thus acquired, there have been at various times certain tracts set apart for the several tribes by treaties ratified by the Senate, in which possession in common has been guaranteed to them forever. These reservations have in general been established far beyond the limits of white settlement. As the settlements incident to the rapid growth of the country have approached the boundaries of the reservations, the pressure has in many cases become so great that the Indians have been compelled, as a matter of self-protection, to ask for a new reservation, or their lands have been seized by the settlers, and they have been ousted from possession of the same. War in defense of their rights has generally resulted in such cases, which it has been the duty of the government to suppress. Many of our Indian wars have arisen either from the bad faith of the government in the observance of treaties with regard to Indian land, or from the seizure of the same by its citizens, in violation of expressed treaty stipulations granting the reservation to the Indians in perpetuity.
In some cases title in severalty in fee simple has been given to the individual members of the tribes for a certain quantity of the lands embraced in the reservation. Experience has shown that even the most advanced and civilized of our Indians are not capable of defending their lands when title in fee is once vested in them. The reservations in such cases are at once infested by a class of land-sharks who do not hesitate to resort to any measure, however iniquitous, to defraud the Indians of their lands. Whiskey is given them, and while they are under its influence they are made to sign deeds of conveyance, without consideration. They are often induced to sign what they are informed is a contract of sale for a few trees growing on their land, with a receipt for the consideration paid; or some party goes to them claiming to be an agent of the State or county, distributing funds to the poor. This party will pay the Indian five or ten dollars, and procure his signature to a pretended receipt for the same, when in reality the paper signed is a warranty deed, which is recorded, and generally the land is sold to a third and innocent party before the Indian discovers the fraud which has been practiced upon him.
In other cases the Indians complain, and, as it appears, not without cause, that they are subjected to unequal and unjust taxation which they are unable to meet, and are thus divested of the title to their lands.
Again they are induced to mortgage their lands for small sums which they are told will enable them to make money and improve their farms as their white neighbors have done. These mortgages are made payable generally at a time when the Indians are likely to have no money; an attorney fee of seventy-five or one hundred dollars is inserted. At maturity if the mortgage is not satisfied, which generally happens, fore.